The dismissal of large numbers of unvaccinated NHS staff could hamper Walsall’s efforts to tackle long waiting lists and make up for postponed surgeries.
Health service bosses said they were doing all they could to encourage workers in Walsall and beyond to take the Covid vaccine before the government’s March 31 deadline.
The new legislation means that staff must have been dealt two blows or risk being made redundant.
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Walsall Council health and wellbeing members have heard that the real impact on hospitals, mental health services and GP practices will not be apparent until the deadline passes.
Chairman of the board, adviser Stephen Craddock, said: “There are a few issues ahead, one of them is ensuring your staff are vaccinated against Covid 19.
“I know there is some resistance within the workforce to this.
“What are you going to do if, on the appropriate date, you have to lay off a bunch of staff? What impact will that have on the future resumption of elective surgery and the reduction of waiting lists?”
David Loughton, acting chief executive of Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “I don’t have an answer to that. I don’t know what the staffing post will be on March 31.
“I think it’s a very difficult problem. I think we’ll probably have more people in the NHS getting vaccinated, but nowhere near the number that would make a huge difference.
“The general public is behaving in a way that NHS staff don’t. But I have to leave it until the end. We’ve done everything we can to encourage people to get vaccinated.
“I did everything I could with national television, talking to people in intensive care who weren’t vaccinated to say ‘please, please do this. , that’s my experience.”
“Everyone is arguing at the moment that the number of people affected is low, but if you are one of the five people fighting for your life in intensive care in Walsall, you might have thought of getting vaccinated .”
Marcia Foster, acting director of Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust – which provides mental health and learning disability specialist services across the region – said they were in a similar position.
She said: “We very much hope that in the coming weeks hope will triumph over experience and we are seeing a reduction in the number of unvaccinated people.
“Certainly for mental health and learning disabilities services it’s not quite the same issue in terms of recovering from elective work, but there are certainly waiting list issues that we need to be resolved urgently.
“As we haven’t seen the final circumstances yet, I’m afraid it will impact service delivery. But we’re not in a position to take that final opinion yet.”
And Geraint Griffiths-Dale, chief executive of the Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group, added: “I think we’re seeing a lot of vaccine hesitancy among administrative and reception staff within primary care.
“We have seen most of our GPs vaccinated, but if we were to lose around 10% of our administrative staff it would have quite a big impact on very small organizations and the way they operate.
“So I think there is a logistical challenge that we will have to overcome.”
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